What does a thyroid scan involve?

What does a thyroid scan involve?

The simple heel prick test is a vital health check for new babies

Heelprick

My baby’s heel prick test came back positive for congenital hypothyroidism; he now needs a thyroid scan. What will this involve and, if he does have the condition, what will the treatment be?

Thank you for asking this question – many parents don’t know what the heel prick blood test is and why it’s done, so this gives me a chance to explain it. The test (sometimes called the Guthrie test after Robert Guthrie who created it in 1962) involves a small sample of blood being taken from your baby by pricking their heel; we suspect babies hardly feel it at all. It’s usually done around the fifth day of your baby’s life and is a critical test as it screens for nine serious conditions.

We look for six inherited metabolic conditions, as well as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and congenital (meaning from birth) hypothyroidism (CHT). If you have this condition, the thyroid gland doesn’t work well – or not at all; in rare cases, babies are born without a thyroid. The thyroid gland produces a hormone, thyroxine, which is critical to growth, the development of the brain and many body functions. According to current data about 1 in 3,000 babies in the UK may have abnormal thyroid function at birth.

If CHT is detected, a scan is often done to check the appearance of the thyroid, which is in the middle of the neck in front of the windpipe. Other blood tests may also be done to find the exact levels at which the thyroid is working.

But now for the good news. In most cases, when detected early, CHT is very treatable – a replacement for thyroxine can be given every day, in a pill or liquid. This is a lifelong treatment, but as the consequences of not taking it can be huge it seems a small price to pay. So good luck, be brave and try not to worry. And be comforted: your question shows how important the heel prick test is.

Dr Peter Ilves

 

Dr Peter Ilves is a GP and mental health expert with a keen interest in helping people to take a more active role in their own care. Got a question for the panel? Email [email protected].

RELATED ARTICLES

Related Articles

Survival guide: How to bath a baby
Baby
Survival guide: How to bath a baby
Survival guide: How to bath a baby It's a daunting task for a new mum, so here'...
What is Cyclothymia?
You and your body
What is Cyclothymia?
What is Cyclothymia? The word cyclothymia describes a situation when a person...
Win super cute baby sensory toys with the Sophie La Girafe gift set worth £65!
Win
Win super cute baby sensory toys with the Sophie La Girafe gift set worth £65!
Win super cute baby sensory toys with the Sophie La Girafe gift set worth £65...
How to explain death to your toddler?
Toddlers
How to explain death to your toddler?
How to explain death to your toddler? It can be difficult to explain the death...

email block

tips-for-new-mums-how-to-enjoy-christmas-partiesNew Mum

5 tips for new mums: how to enjoy Christmas parties

Christmas the most wonderful time of the year, however, it can be hectic for new mums. With so many festivities...
marine-lloris-precious-momentsCelebrity & Lifestyle

Marine Lloris: "I really like the fact that my girls need me!"

Marine Lloris, founder and owner of Manège en Sucre, a childrenswear fashion and accessories brand, shares her precious parenting moments
how-to-relieve-cramp-in-your-feet-when-pregnantPregnancy

How to relieve cramp in your feet when pregnant?

Foot cramp during pregnancy can occur as a result of tight muscles in your legs or back. Find out what...
win-a-baby-bottle-feeding-starter-set-from-nuby-worth-90Win

Win a baby bottle feeding starter set from Nuby worth £90

We've teamed up with Nuby to help you get your baby ready for the bottle. We're offering one lucky winner...
win-one-of-three-izmi-baby-toddler-carriersWin

Win one of Three Izmi Baby Toddler Carriers

We've teamed up with Izmi Baby to offer three lucky Gurgle fans the chance to win a super comfy, safe...
win-a-family-holiday-for-four-to-corsica-worth-over-5-500Win

Win a family holiday for four to Corsica worth over £5,500

Dreaming of a summer family holiday already? We're offering you the chance to take your little ones on the holiday...